A teen’s peaceful stroll across a trail in Armada, Michigan, proved tragic in 2014. April Millsap was out walking her dog when she was assaulted and killed. Despite the lack of physical evidence, the authorities were successful in obtaining a conviction.
The first episode of Investigation Discovery, ‘Caught in the Net: Heart Rate & Time‘, explores how digital forensics played a role in apprehending April’s killer. So, shall we investigate what transpired?
What Caused April Millsap’s Death?
April Dawn Millsap was a 14-year-old girl who lived in Armada with her family. The adolescent had recently completed middle school and was scheduled to begin high school in the fall of 2014.
Jennifer, her mother, claimed her daughter was an animal lover who enjoyed spending time with their beloved dog. April left home at 5:30 p.m. on July 24, 2014, to take her dog for a walk along the Macomb Orchard Trail in the vicinity.
Jennifer became concerned when April did not return a few hours later. She tried calling and messaging her daughter many times but couldn’t contact her, so she reported it to the police.
April’s body was discovered partially naked in the woods off the trail by a couple of joggers sometime after 8 p.m. Shoe impressions were visible on her cheek and neck, indicating that she had been trampled. April had been asphyxiated by neck compression and had sustained blunt force damage to the head, according to an autopsy.
Who was April Millsap’s killer?
The storey was reported in the local press as the inquiry progressed, resulting in numerous tips. Witnesses said they saw April along the trail and that she was being followed by a man on a motorcycle.
Another witness claimed to have observed a man acting strangely in the woods where April was discovered, according to the episode. A composite sketch of this figure was soon released to the public. Apart from this promising lead, the authorities needed to find April’s phone, which was not found at the crime scene.
The cellphone was later discovered in a rural residential area, and it proved to be the case-breaking evidence. April texted her boyfriend, Austin, at 6:28 p.m. on July 24 about being almost kidnapped. Witnesses observed her with the man on the motorcycle about this time.
April was believed to have been attacked not long after messaging Austin, and the man on the bike was most likely the assailant.
According to the show, a day after the body was discovered, the police discovered a bike stored at a property that matched the previous description. James VanCallis was the owner. When questioned, James indicated that he drove through Armada on July 24 at around 6 p.m. to visit his brother before returning home two hours later.
Surveillance footage from an Armada gas station appeared to show James on his motorcycle prior to the murder. He was also in Armada at the time of the murder, according to phone records.
James matched the composite sketch as well. As a result, the cops began to assemble a case against him. April had a fitness app on her phone at the time that tracked her walk on the route. It showed that her speed picked up shortly after she texted Austin, and it moved to the location where the body was discovered.
Later, the phone made its way through the town before arriving at its final destination. James allegedly took the phone with him on his motorcycle and ditched it somewhere else, according to the authorities.
A man on a motorcycle was recorded on security tape from a property in Armada about the same time the phone appeared to be leaving the neighbourhood sometime after the murder.
April allegedly resisted James’ advances, causing him to become enraged, according to the authorities. He then dragged the adolescent into the woods and stomped on her with a helmet. A botched attempt to rape the young girl was discovered.
What Happened to James VanCallis And Where Is He?
“I messed up,” James VanCallis claimed during his trial in early 2016, according to his former girlfriend. I’m counting on you to stick by me.”
She further stated that James was washing his shoes on the day of the murder and that she had discovered hair and grass in his sweatshirt. Despite the lack of biological evidence linking James to the murder, the mobile phone evidence led to his conviction.
James VanCallis, then 34, was convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping, and assault with the purpose of conducting sexual penetration in February 2016. He was condemned to life in jail without the chance of release less than a month later.
James is still detained at the Carson City Correctional Facility in Montcalm County, Michigan, according to prison records.